A Ghost Story Screen 27 articles

A Ghost Story


A Ghost Story Poster
  • An empty exercise in imitative long-take aestheticism, A Ghost Story fills its distractingly round-cornered frame with endless repetitions on a visual gag.

  • I suppose the thinking goes like this. You're anchoring your film with a singularly ridiculous image, one that is primarily associated with a failure of imagination and / or lack of resources around Halloween. So yes, the ghost in the white sheet is a bit of a conceptual gambit. How will you calibrate for this? Well naturally, by making every other part of the film as pompous and self-important as possible.

  • It has a playfully arty and surreal style that’s reminiscent of the Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, though it lacks the mysterious physicality and naturalism of that director’s best work, and its what-the-fuckery feels more calculated than organic. Lowery’s picture has won the adoration of many critics here, and while it’s always nice to see offbeat work get embraced, I found A Ghost Story mostly alienating, at times even annoying.

  • M moves out, others move in, time rewinds and advances and doubles back again, Kesha makes a cameo: The ghost bears witness to it all and even makes a friend, a fellow sheeted spook, haunting the next house over. But after this meeting of wraiths takes a cloying turn, I found it difficult to continue suspending my disbelief. Lowery, in a way, had given up the ghost.

  • More idiosyncratic but inertly contrived is A Ghost Story, David Lowery’s take on how space is inhabited by the past. While it found many ardent fans, it never transcends quirk for anything more profound in its fashioning of an afterlife of lonely, sheet-wearing ghosts, as much as its inventive visual jokes charm.

  • Is all this silent stillness spooky or silly? A little of both: The spookiness leans heavily on the score’s crashing organs and jarring strings, and some of the silliness isn’t unintentional... A Ghost Story isn’t coherent or profound, but it’s pretty and strange—sad in its quirky way, and blessedly short.

  • Lowery can't always keep the movie from drifting through the mists of pretension, and the tremulous, too-precious score, by Daniel Hart, is sometimes intrusive. Still, the picture's visual imagery--the cinematographer is Andrew Droz Palermo--is so restlessly poetic that it's hard to turn away. Like a wild, sonorous piano chord struck by someone or something in the middle of the night--where did that come from?--the contemplative aura of A Ghost Story sticks with you.

  • The speed with which these later passages unfold make one miss the slowness of the earlier scenes, when characters made more significant impressions. But that seems to be the point. Lowery wants to imagine how it would feel to lose one's identity and, with it, one's connection to time and space. What a depressing hell that must be, and what an aching film A Ghost Story is.

  • It's a deliberate abstraction, and as such, it’s easy to appreciate its conceptual audacity and its visual beauty while still feeling remote from its overt sentimentality. But the further it drifts from its initial setup, the more moving it becomes. It’s pushing toward something simple and pure, almost elemental in the way that spaces are haunted by the memories they contain, and how we may leave those spaces but they never leave us.

  • Past, present and future co-exist within subjective space: a light on the wall cuts to a shot of the flickering cosmos, a close up on a bed sheet becomes the fabric covering a body in a morgue, pulsating music bridges warm memories and present grief. A Ghost Story, the most singular, ambitious and poignant work I’ve seen so far, is more than the next whatever; it is its own beautiful, serene, and transcendent thing.

  • It’s a rare privilege to see a contemporary American film as ambitious, emotionally honest, and just-plain-breathtaking as David Lowery’s Sundance entry A Ghost Story... Lowery is less interested in telling a traditional ghost story or scaring his audience. His aim here is to explore how the ghost story as a genre and storytelling tradition masks cultural anxieties about time and mortality.

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    Film Comment: Laura Kern
    March 03, 2017 | Sundance | March/April 2017 Issue (pp. 64-65)

    The most memorably haunting film I saw during the festival was A Ghost Story, David Lowery's return to somber art-house filmmaking... While [Affleck and Mara] barely speak (the refreshingly existential film relies heavily on atmosphere and contains very little dialogue), the bold, tender scene of them embracing and occasionally kissing in bed that runs nearly silently and borderline voyeuristically for what seems like five minutes is striking evidence of their affection.

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    Film Comment: Imogen Sara Smith
    July 03, 2017 | July/August 2017 Issue (pp. 38-40)

    The notion that during our lives we might be haunted by our own future ghosts is a brain twister. But if the film wanders into less than fully baked speculations, the blame might lie with cinema itself, which turns time into putty... Though the film reaches a somewhat facile resolution, what lingers is the melancholy resonance of the ghost's lonely, stubborn wait, perhaps for something to make sense of his life and death.

  • There’s a simplicity to this 87-minute wraith of a movie that seems to demand bare-bones description rather than lavish praise. The plot can be summarized in a sentence: After a man dies, his ghost returns to haunt his former home, waiting for some sign from his beloved. Yet in its brief sojourn on the screen, A Ghost Story moves through centuries of geologic time and into the deepest recesses of the human heart.

  • People either seem to love “A Ghost Story” or hate it, with no in-between... I loved everything about it, including the scenes I wasn’t sure how to take. I recommend seeing it in a theater because it’s a movie that has as much to say about our perception of time and permanence as it does about love and death. Much of the impact that it has, positive or negative, comes from having to sit there and watch it without interruptions and think about what it’s showing you, and how.

  • While Lowery occasionally oversteps, underlining the sense of our “protagonist’s” abandonment with an emphatic, pathetic zoom out, his basic premise—the experience of impotently watching the world move on without you, left with nothing but time in which to do so—is a conceptual gut-punch, and the treatment mostly allows him to work around the shortcomings of previous films on which he was lone screenwriter: a lack of humor, overwrought dialogue.

  • As spare and precise in its effects as Straub’s novel was lurid and extravagant, this latest feature written and directed by David Lowery (“Pete’s Dragon”) isn’t a horror story exactly, unless you count the horror of permanent solitude. Opening in domestic contentment, moving through personal anguish and ending with a cosmic lament, it’s a simple, wrenching story of love and loss that pries open a window onto eternity.

  • Though it feels like Lowery is going for something of a quasi-mystical southwestern variation on Tsai Ming-liang, and though the images sometimes evoke the comic-like stasis of Wes Anderson, its children’s book aesthetic—every new scene feels like a turned page—rarely feels reductively stylized. It’s a genuinely pictorial work, invested throughout with a deeply felt sadness.

  • A wondrous, delicate shell of a movie that writer/director David Lowery made quietly and on the cheap after finishing Pete's Dragon for Disney. Its drollness is part of the miraculous balancing act it pulls off in transmitting its huge themes through humble imagery, from the ramshackle rental in which it mostly takes place to the scene in which M tries to numb her grief by eating pie until she's sick. It's a wide-reaching film told in miniature.

  • A quietly grand romantic mystery, a metaphysical vision of love that is inseparable from Lowery’s wildly inventive yet controlled way with the very stuff of movies: movement, performance, space, time, light, color, reflections, effects, talk, sound, and, for that matter, silence. The film, which pulls an epigram from Virginia Woolf’s story “A Haunted House,” is a jewel-like novella written directly onto the screen in images.

  • Time keeps on slipping into the future in A Ghost Story. It’s a movie that seems to move simultaneously in slow motion and hyperspeed. Individual scenes are inflated with dead air and drag to the point of inertia, but the whole thing flies by with the serene velocity of great short fiction, like a novella that you read in a single sitting because it would seem like a betrayal of the author’s talent and trust to break your concentration.

  • For Lowery, there's no reincarnation, no circle of life, only a process of disengagement. One might be tempted to call his ghost patient, but that would suggest a linear narrative at work. Instead, Lowery's obliteration of time renders C naive. He is a spectator—just as we are. A Ghost Story may be thinly plotted, but it's thick with introspection, dodging any easy interpretation. It may well be all about time, but as C learns, time isn't as useful as we might have thought.

  • It’s always refreshing to see filmmakers trying new things or taking a different direction, as is the case with David Lowery and his odd, adorable and devastating latest. Long takes and a boxy aspect ratio replace the more standard Hollywood style of his most recent work, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and Pete’s Dragon, to tell the story of time. Here, Lowery explains how he planned and shot a key scene in A Ghost Story, which encapsulates the whole film with delicate and gripping immediacy.

  • The sheet garb was by all accounts difficult to film, which makes sense when you think about it – this teetering on the verge of absurdity. Yet absurdity is avoided. The sudden movements of the ghost as it turns its head, the fabric folds immaculately lit and not quite falling in a naturalistic fashion, are very suggestive. The film takes a huge risk with this central image, but makes it work on every level – effortlessly, gracefully, creating a lyrical exploration of emotional fade and loss.

  • What is intriguing about this ghost story is not the fact that Lowery decides to tell it from the point of view of the ghost rather than the haunted humans. It’s the distance that Lowery places between Affleck’s character as a human – he plays C, the musician husband of Mara’s M – and the mournful, wafting presence he becomes after death. Once everything that made him human – his physical being, his powers of communication – is whittled away, what remains is love and an aching longing.

  • A Ghost Story is not so much the wisdom of a life lived as it is dinner party conversation for intellects of a certain age. But it is also a work of cinematic imagination from an up-and-comer who wants to build on the very Malick-isms that have turned so many moviegoers off. The middle passage, where time slips between cuts and pans, is beautifully detailed.

  • When Will Oldham’s character launches into his monologue, he’s probably not exactly sure where he’ll be going with it, but a hunch in his gut guides him to a desolate conclusion. Lowery’s story rolls out as if he were thinking out loud, and though it also eventually wanders out to the very infinitude of the universe, he ends up in far less desperate straits.

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